Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Beyond Hope - Andrew Strong

I won't go into too much detail, but I’ve just had to undertake a psychometric test. I’ve always been more than a little proud of my refusal to see the world in the way that others see it, and if anything, was hoping that this test would confirm I was on the spectrum that ranges between eccentric and beyond hope.

There were something like one hundred and seventy questions in the test, ranging from "I enjoy theories" to "I hate parties". As the test proceeded, so my positive responses were clustered together, as were my negative answers. So things I like (books, people, singing and watercress) all appeared in the same question, forcing me to make a distinction. Similarly, all the things I hate (golf, getting up, Wotsits and rabies) were thrown together to make me differentiate between them.

Imagine if you were asked whether you hated Wotsits more than rabies, could you decide? Rabies is nasty, but is thankfully uncommon. Wotsits, they pop up all over the place, those horrible, disgusting, floury, yellow puke pods.

At the end of all this psychometric twaddle, I had to sit in a room with an expert who told me how nuts I was. She laughed until she cried as she described the huge variations in my responses. "You are a silent loner," she said. "You sit outside of the circle, looking in. You hate Wotsits more than rabies. That's very weird."

"Ah," I replied, "but I love watercress more than singing!"

She filed my report away and told me, no, I couldn't have a copy. For once in my life, I wish I could have been normal. It must feel so good. To like parties more than poetry, and sunshine more than stationery. I can only wish.

But as I spend hours alone, making things up, it is unlikely that the outside world would consider me a balanced, rounded human being. I am not, and I don’t want to be. I want to be the eccentric that I am, because in that way the world is an endlessly entertaining series of the bizarre, the surreal and the utterly incomprehensible. If I were organised and rational, possessed of that dubious quality ‘common sense’, then I am certain I would be incapable of doing what I enjoy doing most, making things up.

From what I’ve come to understand, psychometric tests are used more and more often in business and especially in the civil service. I suppose the logical consequence of all this is that eventually the world will be controlled by robots, and the imaginative, the bizarre, the curious and the quirky will be designated ‘unnecessary’ and consigned to the rubbish tip of history.


Farah Mendlesohn said...

If this is in the UK, it is illegal for her to deny you a copy of your own records.

*Epecially* if the test went through/is stored on a computer.

These days even public exam papers can be reclaimed.

catdownunder said...

And, as it is all too easy for people to manipulate the answers on this sort of test, I should not worry too much about deviating from what is supposedly 'normal'. It is 'normal' to deviate, especially if you are creative.

Rachel Ward said...

Oh, I hate these tests. You start off thinking 'this is fun' and then when other people analyse the results you realise it isn't. I did one at work (the day job) which was designed to place all the members of a new department in one of four categories. I ended up with two other people out of a total of 40 in the 'blue' group which, it was made pretty clear to a roomful of colleagues was the introverted, anally-retentive trainspotter group. We were then laughed at by all the fun, sociable, dynamic 'red' and 'yellow' people. It was absolutely humiliating. Sort of thing that could turn you into a serial killer if you were that way inclined.

Pen said...

Lol! This post made be laugh. You sound like a delightful creature.

I think all of us writing-inclined people are a little odd. Let's face it, we spend a big chunk of every day living in a world of our own invention - how is that not weird? And we love it! It's what make us happy. :)

John Dougherty said...

The whole point of these tests is - or should be - that 'normal' covers a huge range, and just because Rachel's 'blue' group is different from the reds & yellows it doesn't make them weird. Anyone who uses these tests to make people feel excluded or abnormal has completely missed the point.

What was this test? My wife works with psychometric tests, and would tell you there are some which are really useful, and some which are twaddle. I suspect one which asks you to choose between rabies and wotsits falls into the second category.

Nick Green said...

My problem with tests like these is that they don't test the actual ME, just the me who is sitting thinking about me, as I do the test. I am often completely wrong about how I would respond in any given situation. I lie to myself about myself. Even to a simple question, say, 'Do you prefer going to a party or reading a book?' I just don't know. I know what I THINK I'm like (I'd choose the book) but in reality, I'd probably prefer the party.

Don't ask me what I'm like. I have no idea.

John Dougherty said...

Oh - and re. your last paragraph: when Mrs D uses these tests - in a business context - it's to help people understand that other people's thought processes and approaches may be different from theirs without being necessarily weird or wrong.

The idea should be to promote understanding of diversity, not conformity.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I thought this post wonderful... made me laugh out loud. What a weird world we live in when we continually want to categorise and generalise. Whose to say that the very things we might love one day aren't what we hate most the next. Your summing up of it as a writer is brilliant... 'I want to be the eccentric that I am, because in that way the world is an endlessly entertaining series of the bizarre, the surreal and the utterly incomprehensible. If I were organised and rational, possessed of that dubious quality ‘common sense’, then I am certain I would be incapable of doing what I enjoy doing most, making things up.'

Katherine Langrish said...

Yes - a friend of mine was asked on one of these things: Would you rather be a bishop or a general? Unfortunately there is no option to quer: What is the difference? nor to ask: What is the questionnaire's concept of a bishop or a general, and how may it differ from mine?

Andrew Strong said...

Ok, so I made the bits up about watercress/rabies/wotsits. (Yes! I make things up!) But the description of the mechanics of the test (e.g. clustering likes and dislikes) was more or less accurate. And yes, I agree with Nick...the thing is - I don't really know what I like, who I am or what I'm doing, and I'm suspicious of anyone who claims they do. One thing I know for sure - I'm not certain of anything.

catdownunder said...

I am with you Andrew - and Nick. Those sort of tests do not describe ME at all. They do not describe my interests or how I feel or why I feel the way I feel. I am ME - not somebody else's description of me.

Farah Mendlesohn said...

Katherine, I recognised the Bishop/General question. That's from a "which role in the team should you play".

I was asked to do that once to help work out why I and a colleague kept clashing. Four different psychometric tests later, the mediator threw up her hands. Every single test said "these two people can't work together."

Farah Mendlesohn said...

Cadownunder and Nick Green: I liked the Myers-Briggs precisely because it was presented to me as "it helps you think through who you *think* you are."